Reviews by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits
Star Trek: The Original Series -
1966-67 (2009) - NBC/Desilu (CBS DVD/Paramount)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on April 28th, 2009
Program Rating: A-
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 18
First things first: I'm not going to talk too much about the specific episodes contained in this 7-disc set. I've already done it before with the previous releases, including here on DVD and here on HD-DVD. So let me get right to my most important comment about this set up front: BRAVO! In my opinion, CBS has NAILED this release. This Blu-ray set is superior to the previous DVD and HD-DVD editions in virtually every respect. It's just terrific - a real treat to experience from start to finish.
Let me start by offering a breakdown of what each of these discs includes...
DISC ONE - Episodes: The Man Trap, Charlie X, Where No Man Has Gone Before (with Starfleet Access enhancement) and The Naked Time. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD), new Star Trek feature film preview trailer (#1 - HD) and the Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century featurette (HD)
DISC TWO - Episodes: The Enemy Within, Mudd's Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri, Dagger of the Mind. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD) and an FX Sizzle Reel Easter egg featurette (SD)
DISC THREE - Episodes: The Corbomite Maneuver, The Menagerie, Part 1 (with Starfleet Access enhancement), The Menagerie, Part 2 (with Starfleet Access enhancement) and The Conscience of the King. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD) and the Reflections on Spock featurette (SD)
DISC FOUR - Episodes: Balance of Terror (with Starfleet Access enhancement), Shore Leave, The Galileo Seven and The Squire of Gothos. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD) and the Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner featurette (SD)
DISC FIVE - Episodes: Arena, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Court Martial and The Return of the Archons. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD), the To Boldly Go...: Season One and The Birth of a Timeless Legacy featurettes (both SD) and a Star Trek Remastered Easter egg preview trailer (HD)
DISC SIX - Episodes: Space Seed (with Starfleet Access enhancement), A Taste of Armageddon, This Side of Paradise and The Devil in the Dark. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD), the Sci-Fi Visionaries featurette (HD) and the BD-Java Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
DISC SEVEN - Episodes: Errand of Mercy (with Starfleet Access enhancement), The Alternative Factor, The City on the Edge of Forever and Operation Annihilate!. Additional extras: Original broadcast previews for each episode (SD), the Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest featurette (HD), the Kiss 'N' Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century featurette (SD) and BD-Live online access (includes online galleries and databases, as well as additional downloadable featurettes - available in both HD & SD - and other previews)
So what's great about this set? Where do I begin?! First of all, the video is presented in full 1080p resolution, in the original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio. The quality is outstanding. Colors are incredibly vibrant as you'd expect, and contrast is superb. What's truly impressive is the detail. These HD episodes were mastered from the original film elements, so you're going to see light grain and select shots will occasionally look softer than others. But if classic Trek is never going to look quite perfect, there's no doubt whatsoever that this is as close as these episodes will ever get. What's more, I've done A/B comparisons of the video quality here and on the previous HD-DVD release, and the added bandwidth of BD and extra disc space (which allows for less compression to be used) makes a clear difference. Take a look at the clouds on the shots of the Enterprise arriving in a planet's orbit at the start of The Man Trap - the HD-DVD clouds exhibit noticeable artifacting that's barely visible on Blu-ray (if at all). Better still, BOTH the original broadcast and new remastered versions of each episode are included, all in full 1080p resolution. You can choose which version you want to watch from the menus, and you can also switch back and forth on the fly using the "angle" button on your remote. There's also a handy "angle icon" on the pop-up menus, so it's easy to compare the two versions. I'll tell you, when you see the original optical effects compared to the new CG ones in high-definition... well, I'm REALLY glad to have the original versions in HD but I'll never be able to watch them again. There's a BIG difference.
The sound quality here is also impressive, available in full 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio format as well as the original Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Mono audio is also provided in French and Spanish. The original master tapes occasionally reveal their age a little, but on the whole these episodes sound terrific. Dialogue is clear, music is well layered into the mix and just wait until you hear The Big E zoom by onscreen in DTS 7.1 lossless! You can hear her coming up from behind you and then she fills the screen with a WHOOSH that pans over your shoulder into the front portion of the soundstage. Awesome. Note that episode subtitles are provided in English (for the hearing impaired), Spanish, French and Portuguese.
The set's menus have also been refined from the previous DVD and HD-DVD versions. They're elegant, tasteful and simple to use. You start in space with the Enterprise approaching, and then suddenly you're on the Bridge, sitting in the Captain's chair, looking at the main viewer. The option selections appear at the bottom on the screen, where the Helm and Navigation stations would be. Everything is easy to find and navigate, and the menus are quick to respond. The discs have only very limited previews and warning screens to sit through. In a nice touch, Disc One starts with the first full trailer for the new Star Trek feature film in full HD ("What is your name?" "James Tiberius Kirk!") A couple of the discs feature the usual disclaimers, and most have the CBS HD logo.
Most of the featurettes included on the set are SD format, repurposed for this release, though some are presented in native HD. Every episode has an SD preview trailer - the same original broadcast trailers that appeared on the very first 2-episodes-per-disc DVD release of the series way back in 1998. The Starfleet Access option works great - you just select it and away you go. It works just like the HD-DVD version - pop-up video, graphics and other information appear onscreen as you're watching the episode. I DID find a couple of cool little Easter eggs in this set - it's possible there are more. Also, the BD-Java/Blu-ray version of the Interactive Enterprise Inspection (originally created for the HD-DVD version) works just like before. It takes a moment to load, but then it's responsive and looks and sounds great, letting you work your way around the outside of the Enterprise in space to learn more about its various systems.
One of the things I was MOST impressed with here, however, is the BD-Live access (available from Disc Seven). You obviously need a BD-Live ready Blu-ray player and an added SD memory card. When you select the BD-Live option from the features menu, the interface starts to connect. Here's the cool thing: Before you even fully connect to the online experience, a "Dynamic HD" teaser screen appears that tells you what new content is available online! You're given the option to connect and get it, or not. So this helps let you know when there's new material you might be interested in, without forcing you to go through the time-consuming process of the player fully connecting and then loading the online interface. It's a REALLY nice touch. Once you're online, you'll find online databases with information on the cast, characters, ships, aliens and more. There are galleries of photos you can page though with your remote. See one you want to get a better look at? Hit 'enter' and it will fill the screen. Hit 'enter' again and it's back to the thumbnail. Better still, you're given the ability to download new video clips, previews and featurettes. And here's what's cool about that: You can download them either in SD or full HD (20 MB vs. 50 MB in size)! The interface tells you how much room is available on your player's SD card, and you can cancel the download or delete them from your card at any point. Once you download and select one, it appears with a playback interface (you can make it disappear with the "pop-up menu" button on your remote). I do have one suggestion for CBS and Paramount: It would be nice if the online menu interface had a "back" selection option. It took me a few minutes to realize that you can navigate back to the previous menu with the "pop-up menu" button on the remote. Once you figure out how to use the interface, however, the entire online experience is VERY cool and easy to use. I was able to download 3 new HD featurettes at the time of this review - Filming the Galaxy, The Sounds of Star Trek and Saving the Show. Each runs about 2 minutes in length. Here's one other suggestion for CBS and Paramount - it would be cool if, once you've already downloaded these, you could access them from the disc's regular menus. As it stands, once you log off, the featurettes are still on your SD card but you have to go back online to access them through the online interface.
Note that the set's packaging is a thicker, 7-disc Blu-ray Elite plastic case, with the discs secured to swing-trays inside. This is enclosed by a vertical metallic cardboard slipcase. Inserts are included to promote forthcoming Trek DVD/BD releases and upcoming Trek games. There's also a mail-in offer for an exclusive Sulu action figure from Diamond Select. I actually quite like the fact that the package is compact yet stylish - it takes up less than half of the space of the previous DVD and HD-DVD editions. It'll fit well on the shelf with the rest of our Blu-rays.
If I had a couple nitpicks about this set (and they're minor), they're these: First, I wish the disc labels included the names of the episodes on each disc. They're listed on the inside of the cover art (visible through the package), but episode titles on the disc labels themselves would be easier to reference. Second, there are a few features from the previous DVD and HD-DVD releases that have not been included. Specifically, the Trek Connections featurette and 2-hour Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier History Channel special - that were included on the DVD side of the HD-DVD combo release - are not here. Nor is the Star Trek Online game preview, though that's no real loss. Also missing are the HD-DVD's Starfleet Access on The Galileo Seven, as well as the Red Shirt Diaries featurettes and the Okuda text commentaries from the original DVD release. Most of the Okuda text content is actually included in the Starfleet Access option, but not every episode that had text commentary on the original DVDs has Starfleet Access here, so you are losing SOME content (though its value is limited). All of these things have been excluded on Blu-ray due to disc space concerns, which is understandable - especially considering the new Blu-ray options (both versions of the episodes, etc). It would be great, however, if CBS and Paramount included some of the missing content on a bonus DVD disc, or tried to fit the missing featurettes onto the Season 2 or Season 3 Blu-rays if possible. Again, these are nitpicks, none of which detract from this exceptional release.
As I recall, there were select home theatre enthusiasts who swore up and down that HD-DVD was THE superior way to view these remastered episodes in high-definition - that Star Trek just could never get better on Blu-ray. This set is ABSOLUTE PROOF that they were wrong, just as we said here at The Bits at the time. CBS's new Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 is THE best argument for Trek fans to upgrade to the Blu-ray format you could ask for. Everyone who worked on this set should be proud. I can't WAIT to get my hands on Seasons 2 and 3 on Blu-ray (both of which are due in stores later this year). Simply put: This is just a superior TV on BD release and it's a must-have for every Trek fan. VERY highly recommended!
Bill Hunt, Editor